During a big week of news including VMware’s announcement of vSphere 5 and Cisco Live, there were a couple of FCoE related news items that are worth a quick look.
Broadcom Checks the FCoE Box
Broadcom announced the general availability of its 10Gb adapter that includes hardware offload of FCoE. Broadcom has also received qualification of the device from EMC’s E-Lab – a very important stamp of approval in the storage world. Broadcom only sells this device through OEM partners such as with the announced Dell blade server offering. Initial support includes Windows (including Hyper-V) and Linux, with VMware coming in an upcoming release (it’s not clear if this is vSphere 5 which was announced the day after Broadcom’s release); one would hope that this will be released by the time OEMs start shipping as virtual environments are the primary environments for FCoE. In addition to a strong general networking legacy, Broadcom has proven iSCSI solutions. Storage administrators are hesitant to have to qualify new FC stacks, which has led to the current duopoly of Emulex and QLogic for HBAs. According to a Demartek benchmark, Broadcom’s performance compares favorably to the incumbent vendors (it is worth noting that < 4k block size is not typical for storage and that the test was done on Windows and other OSes may have different results). In general, FCoE adoption is happening in embedded environments, so Broadcom’s product will play well in that marketplace and adding FCoE checks a box for having a complete solution for the various networking options for convergence.
Intel gets FCoE into VMware
Intel has been a strategic partner for a long time. Intel’s Open FCoE initiative (see my coverage from earlier this year) was missing VMware support since the software initiator would have to be in the hypervisor. According to a blog by Scott Lowe (who works for EMC, not VMware) and a message on Twitter from an Intel employee, vSphere 5 includes “Software FCoE initiator (only supported on Intel X520 NICs at initial release)”. It is a bit odd that there was not a press release (although there were so many others that they may be holding it for a few days). Getting FCoE in the hypervisor is a significant win for Intel and while the solution is not “free” (as I discussed in the previously mentioned article), just like Broadcom, it allows for Intel to compete with all solutions for network adapters.
Action Item: As virtualization and convergence trends continue to grow, users must consider that infrastructure that is bought today could be used in many environments over the life of the product. FCoE may not be the primary consideration for the acquisition of an adapter, but equipment that has this functionality may be turned on at a later date, so the server, network and storage teams should all be consulted when purchasing 10Gb Ethernet equipment.
Footnotes: Wikibon Competitive Positioning of Network Adapters